September 3, 2015

By Brett Waters, Originally published on Tivix.com

I believe in the power of free markets. And I believe in our shared responsibility to help the world's most impoverished communities.

And so in recent years I've become very interested in social entrepreneurship, which lies at the intersection of these two beliefs. Around the globe today, social entrepreneurs are using business techniques to find solutions to the most pressing social issues. An example might be an entrepreneur who has developed a new inexpensive solar light system that can be sold to rural villagers in Africa, through local merchants, reducing the noxious fumes of kerosene and giving kids the ability to read at night. 

In my mind, there are two big advantages to the social entrepreneurship approach to solving global social issues:

  • Unlike traditional charities which rely on contributions, social ventures typically use an earned-income financial model which provides much better sustainability to their impact.
  • Economic development really is the foundation for health, education, and individual freedoms. When we create economic development in impoverished communities around the world, all sorts of good things happen. 

 

For several years now I've worked as a volunteer mentor at the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®), which is part of the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University. The GSBI has an accelerator program for social entrepreneurs. We help entrepreneurs get from an early pilot project all the way through global impact at scale. It's a highly-selective program: this year the program had several hundred applicants, and only 15 were admitted (we're looking for high-leverage opportunities to change the world). 

Santa Clara University is the oldest institution of higher learning in California (founded 1851), a Jesuit university which today finds itself located in the heart of Silicon Valley. And so the GSBI program is the perfect melding of the university's academics, their Silicon Valley resources, and the Jesuit mission to benefit humanity. 

After having accelerated the growth of 394 social entrepreneurs operating in 63 countries, we've learned a lot. And the GSBI has published those learnings so that our methodology can be replicated elsewhere (view white paper). Because "teaching the teachers" is an important part of scaling our impact. 

Most of my life today revolves around helping entrepreneurs build ventures that matter. That's what we do at Tivix, and that's what I teach at Stanford.

But my work with the GSBI is the most satisfying thing I do every year. Because I believe that social entrepreneurs can change the world.